British is always the dominant nationality for buyers in our markets and it was no different in 2020. The biggest shift this year was the return of Europeans, who made up 16% of all buyers, after dropping to just 6% in 2019. We have particularly noted activity from French buyers. Far Eastern buyers were also more active this year, accounting for 11% of sales, up from 6% the year before.
The prevalence of European buyers is heartening as we approach the final stage of Brexit with the prospect of a no deal particularly as banks have expressed serious concerns about their ability to operate fully in the City.
Our markets often diverge from national trends and the identity of the buyers is proof of that this year. In most of the country, first time buyers have been disadvantaged in 2020 by increasingly stringent mortgage requirements but in our markets, they made up 24% of all transactions – significantly more than in any of the last 5 years. First time buyers in our markets are generally high earners and often international citizens.
The buyer type that totally disappeared from our markets in 2020 was the pied a terre owner – perhaps unsurprising when so many offices were closed and people retreated to homes outside the capital. The loss of the pied a terre buyer partly explains weak demand for smaller apartments.
Judging from our buyer data, people in their 30s were far less active in 2020 than age groups either side. We suspect that the pandemic played a part in causing this as people in the family formation years no longer needed to think about proximity to the office. Young people in their 20s picked up the slack, making up 24% of buyers, compared to 11% in 2019.
On average over the past 5 years, 37% of our buyers were aged between 30 and 40 but this year, their share fell to just 21%.
The breakdown of buyers by their loan to value ratio changed very little. Cash buyers still make up 34% of the total – equal to the five year average.